A Spineless Cur’s Approach to Climate Activism
I’ve been banging my head on walls to understand what would make for winning climate change activism. The actions I see in the news don’t do it for me, nor do my own ideas. I’m cool on civil disobedience because it’s not designed for the kind of problem climate change is, and I doubt the value of protests because they lack oomph and I worry that they come off as a sort of self-aggrandizing hobby. Plus we’re so used to them that they’ve become wallpaper. Every time I’m in DC there’s some throng or other chanting on the mall, and I don’t even bother to find out what they’re chanting about anymore. There’s altogether too much thronging.
What to do instead?
I think activism works best when the activist publicly shows a willingness to sacrifice/risk/suffer. Think Gandhi’s hunger strikes, or civil rights activists braving fire hoses. Or this guy:
Or this guy:
…who, armed with nothing but 10-pound cojones, burned himself quietly to death in the street to protest an unjust Vietnamese government. It worked – his sacrifice appears to have been a turning point in the conflict. On the other hand, among climate change activists, we’ve got this guy:
…who lives in this house:
…and whose cojones aren’t as impressive:
So I ponder: what kind of public sacrifice/risk could I make to demonstrate my commitment, in a way that might affect people on a gut/heart level?
My options are limited by the fact that I’m a coward. I won’t burn myself to death (not that it’s appropriate in this case), but I can do better than I’ve done so far. All I’ve done to date is quit my carbon-intensive job. Though unimpressive, it’s been valuable as a preparatory step. One can’t go straight from Professional Quiverer to Spartan Warrior. There are intermediate stages, like the Slightly-Less-Cowardly-Than-the-Gutless-Pleasure-Monkey-I’ve-Spent-My-Life-Being-Up-Until-Now stage.
Here’s an idea for my next step. I don’t know whether I’ll do it but it’s on my list of possibilities. Forrest Gump inspired it. Here it is in 4 easy steps:
- Walk out front door
- Get on bike
- Ride back from coast to coast, over and over again, giving talks on fossil fuel dependency along the way, until…
- All federal subsidies to big oil are rescinded
You’ll recall that Gump did something similar: he jogged between coasts for a few years.
If I’m lucky and charming (so if I’m lucky) others might ride with me, like they ran with Gump (I know, he’s fictional. These are my straws – I can grasp at them if I wish).
So perhaps it needs only a nudge to happen. Also, ending these subsidies would not only be a bulwark against climate change, but also peak oil, which may be upon us. If all the subsidies now given to oil were given to solar, solar would be cheaper in 100% of the country, as this infographic attests
The key difficulty is that oil subsidies may not end in my lifetime, and I could spend the balance of my days as a hobo bicyclist. There might be a certain poetry to that, but it would also mean separation from my friends and loved ones for the rest of my life, save for the occasional pedal-by.
If it weren’t for that, I’d hop on my bike right now. On the other hand, isn’t that the risk which makes the idea interesting, which demonstrates commitment? If not for that it would just be a long bike ride. What do you think? If you like my idea, please egg me on. I want to be egged. Hard. Or maybe someone who reads this will do it so I can continue nursing my cowardice.
–From the Sea
Posted May 03, 2011 in Smashing Ideas | 10 Comments on A Spineless Cur’s Approach to Climate Activism